Super Agent

Archive for January, 2014

Your One Shot At A First Impression

According to a recent report by Corporate Visions, studies have “shown that buyers remember only 10% of your message just one week after you leave the room. But, if you make the effort to attach your story to a simple, concrete visual, your buyers remember 65% of your conversation.”

Today, most of us are accustomed to everything being streamlined, simplified or one-click away. So, although utilizing a visual tool during a meeting may seem like something small, you are much more likely to capture a decision maker’s attention and keep them engaged if you do.

For example, a graphic overview that represents your implementation process, a complicated idea, your sales process or other detailed information can not only help you be remembered, but will also help you:

  • Have more effective conversations by allowing you to take control of the sales process,
  • Provide a memorable representation of the potential relationship between the prospect and your agency,
  • Turn complex concepts into something tangible for your prospects,
  • Position yourself in a unique way that differentiates you from your competitors.

Are you using visual tools to give prospects a clear sense of your story and your process? How might using them enhance communication and engagement?

Invest in Yourself

Henry Ford said, “The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.” We’ve always been advocates of continually staying ahead of the curve, gaining new experience and knowledge, and frequently assessing where to become better in order to really differentiate. And to do this, it’s necessary that each of us takes the time to invest in ourselves.

When was the last time you asked, what do I need to get better at today in order to improve outcomes tomorrow? What are the leaps you want to take personally, professionally and as a part of your agency? Here are a few areas you might consider:

  • Marketing & networking to attract right-fit prospects
  • Improving your business acumen, specifically in the niche industries that you’ve decided you want to target
  • Enhancing technical knowledge by reading materials or attending webinars and training events
  • Developing and leveraging Centers of Influence
  • Becoming a better speaker and presenter
  • Better using innovative technology in your sales process

It’s also important to surround yourself with people that will help you to broaden your scope of knowledge and your capabilities, and engaging with people you admire will often motivate you to take the steps necessary to become better.

What have you done recently to invest in yourself and your success? Share your stories with us.

Don’t Overlook This Forgotten Treasure

When addressing injury management practices and processes, the person most likely to be overlooked to provide improvement in this area is the front-line supervisor. Supervisors are forgotten treasures in the injury management outcomes equation. Consider this:

  • They have firsthand knowledge of the injured employee, the work environment and the opportunities that exist in modified work assignments
  • They can directly influence the tone and message sent to injured workers on behalf of the employer
  • If they have an existing relationship with an employee based on trust and transparency, they can be made available to answer questions about their health and safety

In an interview with EHS Today, veteran of the chemical industry Paul Balmert said, “The guys doing the work pay a lot more attention to their front-line supervisor than they ever do the plant manager or the vice president,” Balmert said. “The biggest single mistake I saw in my 30 years was when managers didn’t understand or appreciate [that] and therefore didn’t take maximum advantage of that tremendously powerful leader out there.”

So, how can your clients make the most of this important asset?

Reviewing their training practices is the first step. Does training reflect and encourage return-to-work? Are supervisors encouraged to communicate and empathize with workers? Are they able to identify modified duty and transitional work assignments?

These are all good questions to ask when thinking about the best way to engage supervisors, and to ensure that a work culture of mutual respect exists. Having a conversation around supervisor training with your clients is a great way to help them discover the importance of focusing on better outcomes.

Are You Taking These Steps to Qualify Your Pipeline?

You’ve probably experienced it before—any mention of the word pipeline during a meeting and the mood of the room immediately changes, most of the time for the worse. But we see pipeline development as more than putting down names and contact information into a spreadsheet. A pipeline is a reflection of what you want to achieve and conveys the rewards and opportunities it can generate for you.

There are many steps to take in order to build a rewarding pipeline, but one that is often overlooked (and so important in today’s technology-driven world) is investing the time to research and qualify your list. Sales expert Jill Konrath said: “Learning how to qualify my prospects to ferret out those opportunities where it was worthwhile to pursue low-hanging fruit was hard… But by doing this, I saved myself lots of hard work. And, I had more time to spend on prospects where I could win.”

So, how do you get started? Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • Utilize LinkedIn to search for prospects and their companies. Make sure to identify what groups they are a part of or any connections that you have in common. This is a great way to seek out introductions.
  • If you’re leading with Workers’ Comp, procure their experience mod history.
  • Access state insurance databases for X-dates.
  • Set up Google Alerts to notify you when they or their company make news.
  • Conduct calls to share the research you’ve gained and determine who is responsible for managing risk and buying insurance within their organization.

Using these activities to augment the data you already have can help you better understand your prospects and narrow down your list to include 100-200 suspects that are likely to be right-fits to work with you.

What other strategies do you use to qualify prospects in your pipeline? Share them with us in the comments!

Why Culture Matters

Regardless of politics, there is something to be learned from the widely talked about scandal behind the lane closures at the George Washington State Bridge. The latest news surrounding the issue is that Governor Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Anne Kelly has been fired for arranging the traffic jams in order to punish a town mayor who didn’t endorse Christie for re-election.

Christie says he had no knowledge of or involvement in the closures. So the question is: if Kelly is solely responsible, what made her feel confident enough to act on behalf of the leader of the state? The answer can be boiled down to culture and what it does or doesn’t permit.

More importantly, how does this relate to you?

When was the last time your clients evaluated the culture of their organization? People work safely when the culture supports and promotes safety, and people sue if they are in a hostile environment that permits it. Julie Ferguson of Workers Comp Insider wrote in a blog post that “truly excellent companies stand out: safety is a pervasive value that you notice from the minute you walk in the door until you leave.” And, studies show that employees who believe they work in a safe environment experience significantly fewer injuries.

What outcomes might improve if your clients were to develop and foster a culture that is alignment with their goals, beliefs and values? Would supervisor/employee communication improve? Would employees return to work faster? Consider having this conversation with your existing clients. And if you’re an agency owner or sales manager, take the opportunity to also evaluate the dynamics of your own culture.

Who Do You Want to Work With?

During a recent coaching call with a group of producers, we ran into a common problem that’s worth sharing here. After an agent was asked what his ideal prospect looked like (and after being provided with a few examples of accounts that varied in size, industry and other factors) he said that he needed to focus on writing new business and would work with them all, regardless of whether or not they were a right-fit.

Who do you want to work with? As Seth Godin wrote in his blog, “Answering, “anyone who pays us money,” is a cop-out.”

In today’s overcrowded marketplace, knowing where to focus your offerings and expertise is essential if you plan to differentiate and win business over your competitors. So, examine the types of relationships your agency is best at pursuing, earning and managing. But most importantly, stick with the prospects who believe what you believe—who are willing to engage with you collaboratively. Help them to discover what dangers or problems they’re facing, and agree to move forward toward a better way.

Ultimately, don’t be afraid to walk away from “opportunities” that have no potential to lead to a valuable partnership for both parties. You owe this to yourself and to your prospects. Inc’s Geoffrey James said, “finding out who is not a potential customer is just as valuable a discovery as finding out who is one.”

Planning vs. Strategy

In the most recent issue of Harvard Business Review, Roger Martin offers an interesting perspective on strategy. He argues that most managers spend weeks, or even months coming up with a comprehensive and cost-based plan (projections and detailed spreadsheets included), when they should be moving outside of this comfort-driven approach to strategy.

He suggests “the effort you spend creating revenue plans is a distraction from the strategist’s much harder job: finding ways to acquire and keep customers.” In effect, instead of poring over numbers to assess how to meet your revenue goals, allow yourself to feel uncomfortable by evaluating your process and deciding two simple things: where you want to play, and how you will win.

Hopefully by now, you’ve already considered what success will look like for you in 2014, and we’re not suggesting that you should ditch the planning process all together. It’s critically important to develop timelines and include tangible activities on your calendar to help you achieve your financial goals and objectives. And, holding yourself accountable to these activities will give you peace of mind and allow you to measure your effectiveness over time. But it may be useful to consider your overall strategy before getting into the meat of your plan. Essentially, as Martin recommends, you want your planning and activities to serve your strategy rather than govern it.

Check out the article and let us know what you think. Do you agree or disagree with Martin’s view on strategy?

Value Creation Leads to Growth

In a recent blog post by sales expert Anthony Iannarino, he told a story about a struggling restaurant whose owner, in an attempt to increase profitability, switched to a less expensive meat supplier. The problem? The meat was of poor quality, business continued to decline, and cutting costs didn’t address the real issue—the owner “was creating too little value.”

The restaurant owner’s fatal mistake was failing to ask himself why his customers weren’t returning and what they really wanted. When was the last time you asked:

(1)   “Why should a prospect choose to engage with us over our competitors?”

If you believe in your value and your process, don’t narrow the conversation to focus only on price. You’re only doing yourself a disservice and playing into the prospect’s belief that insurance is a commodity, and that all agents are the same.

(2)   “What do my clients really want?”

It’s important to consider not only how you can demonstrate past performance to them, but most importantly, how you can prepare them for future opportunities based on their vision for their business. Continually assess where you can help them—think sustainability, more effective use of premium dollars, better outcomes and reduced risks.

Its’ not easy to stick to your process, have tough conversations with prospects, improve sales outcomes or gain the capabilities to understand issues and identify opportunities for clients. But, these things are what differentiate you. Don’t make the same mistake the restaurant owner did by failing to recognize that value creation is what leads to growth.